|WHAT LIES BENEATH (2000)|
|"You had an affair with a girl who threatened to kill herself, and now there is a presence in our house."|
|Time: 120 mins.|
Being a big fan of Harrison Ford, Michelle Pfeiffer and the suspense drama, I have to say I was quite excited to see this movie. Zemeckis isn't always my favorite director, but WHAT LIES BENEATH seemed to have a more subtle and adult touch, at least from the trailer, than most of his other work. The fact that the trailer gave too much of the story away, didn't thrill me, but there's no use in complaining about something that's not going to change. Why they do this, I'll never know. Kind of takes the wind out of the surprises, but hey, apparently I'm not smart enough to figure things out once I get in the theater, so they need to be spelled out for me and the rest of the world ahead of time. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised for much of this film despite knowing the "big secret". Pfeiffer and Ford were wonderful together and actually gave the story, which isn't highly original, power and weight that without would have sunk this movie from the start.
Unfortunately, all the suspense and creepiness of the first 3/4's of the film is ruined with a ridiculous, horror-movie, over-the-top, bullshit ending that I begged with every frame would stop. Why Zemeckis felt he needed to create a sequence so out of character with the rest of the movie, I don't know. Though it does have the fingerprints of test-screenings all over it. WHAT LIES BENEATH is, for the most part, a very creepy, psychological, ghost story that keeps you on the edge of your seat. You don't really know what's going on until well into the movie. Is she seeing things or is there really a ghost in the house? Maybe she's just plain crazy. Is the ghost after her or her husband? Why is the ghost in the house at all? The film raises as many questions as it answers and Pfeiffer gives an amazing performance as a woman who's unsure of herself, half believing she is crazy. After all, she has the perfect house, the perfect husband, the perfect life. Or so it would seem.
I'm usually try not to spoil the ending of a movie for anyone, but in this case I'm unable to stop myself. If you are going to see this movie DON'T READ THE NEXT FEW PARAGRAPHS. SPOILERS AHEAD. She believes she married the perfect man and who wouldn't if they were hitched to Harrison but soon discovers that his affair with a student isn't the worst thing he's done lately. It becomes apparent that he had more to do with her disappearance than she first suspected and now that she's on the verge of uncovering his dirty little secret, she just might be next. I didn't mind them turning Harrison Ford into a killer. In fact, it was a great twist on his normal hero kind of role. It made the part all the more creepy, because you desperately didn't want him to be evil. He's supposed to be the good guy, the perfect husband.
The whole sequence where he attempts to kill her in the bathtub because he can't allow his reputation and life's work to destroyed is extremely disturbing and suspenseful. It's obvious he still loves her, and if she had just toed the line and agreed to forget all about his criminal activities, he wouldn't have to kill her. Because it's Ford, you actually believe him, you WANT to believe him. Of course, you know if anyone's going to bite the big one, it's not going to be Michelle, so when he goes down, in a brilliantly shot sequence, you think he got what's coming to him and that everything is going to be revealed and laid to rest. Well, apparently, the filmmakers thought a little more excitement was needed and Ford goes from being the creepy, obsessed husband to the psycho, violent, can't-be-killed husband. What? This isn't a Friday the 13th flick.
I don't know when horror film endings started to appear on the ends of suspense movies, but this has to stop. He is not superhuman, so frankly why is he incapable of dying? And then to have him killed by the ghost was just to much. There was no need to have retribution for a character we don't even know or really care about. Plus, I really didn't want to see the rotting corpse, even if it used to be Amber Valetta. The entire sequence from him jumping on the back of the truck, to choking Michelle with a hammer, to being held underwater by the ghost was beyond ridiculous and completely unbelievable. Since all the action took place in the house, the ending should have as well. There are plenty of ways they could have taking care of things with the same final result.
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WHAT LIES BENEATH is not a bad film. In fact, it was incredibly well shot, very scary and for the most part well-acted. The camera work was great and the music, up until the end where it got very PSYCHO-like, was subtle, adding to the intrigue. Despite it's main thrust, the film actually had some funny moments, which helped to release the tension. It goes on a little long and there are some scenes that could have been removed without any detriment to the overall storyline. All the shrink episodes were fairly uninteresting, except for the fact that he recommended she buy a ouiji board to commune with the ghost. I think maybe that doctor needs a little time on the couch himself. What professional would tell their potentially crazy client that? I know, it's just a movie. If you're a big fan of Ford or Pfeiffer than this is definitely a film you'll want to check out. They both do amazing jobs with the roles they're given and make WHAT LIES BENEATH a step above what it could have been. However, unless you like wildly over-the-top endings, this film will ultimately be a disappointment. It's not that I didn't expect it to end the way it did, I'm just sad it didn't live up to its potential. WHAT LIES BENEATH could have been a great film, it just took the Hollywood way out.